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Mbox with ProTools LE for casual amateur recording or something else?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by phrancpharmD, Aug 15, 2003.

  1. macrumors regular

    OK, so, I bought my iBook in March, partly by convincing my wife that I would use it to record and produce my musical friends and relatives. So now I'm ready to go for it and it *seems* like the Mbox with ProTools LE is the way to go, although I've seen a lot of reference to a few other programs on various threads here at MacRumors. I've checked out their individual sites, but think I've only confused myself more. So my question to all you Mac Musicians is, am I missing something, or is the Mbox the way too go?
  2. macrumors regular

    sorry to double post right off the bat, but I forgot to ask if the two analog "ins" on the Mbox limits in any way your ability to record "live" (i.e. not in a studio type setting). Thanks!
  3. macrumors 68040


    I think were gonna need more of a budget before we decide any software thats good from you....also if you have a second thought right after you post all you have to hit is edit and you can add that information!
  4. macrumors 65816


    MBox Not a Value

    With regards to DigiDesign, I see them as the M$ of Pro Audio. They offer you what sounds like a solid deal, then slap you with limitations. For example, the MBox will not reach a 96k sample rate. To achieve this you will need to buy a Digi002. The Digi002 will still only run PT LE. PT LE is limited to 32 audio tracks. This hardly seems fair after buying a $1k system.

    But it's even better: PT will only work with DigiDesign hardware, so if you want to take advantage of a great sale price on a high-end converter you will have to evaluate your options for bringing the sound in and out of PT. Digi hardware also secludes itself from other apps.

    For example, the MBox still can't play through iTunes. This may not seem relevant until you consider that you just recorded and mixed a song on a set of monitors or speakers whose sound characteristics you are very familiar with. Now you convert the track to MP3 to send over the net. You can't compare it through the reference monitors that you used to mix it. How can you accurately judge that you have a solid transfer?

    An even more important problem (IMO) is that you can't use iTunes to play CDs through your monitors and develop your familiarity with them. I have music playing through my monitors and my converter at all times, so I have a pretty good feel for how they really sound when I mix my own tracks.

    Finally, DigiDesign has a weak support system. Imagine this: you call tech support with a critical error that is stopping a recording session. The message system at DD only plays you a recording stating that this is a high call volume time of day. It then suggests calling back later and disconnects the line. Personally, I'd rather have an option to wait on the line and get my problem fixed. By suggesting that I call back later, they simply frustrate me and leave me feeling helpless. How can I guess when they will have a clearer phone system? I guess I just keep calling back and hoping that I get lucky.

    There are other companies out there who will work harder to please you than DigiDesign.

    Hope this has been informative.

  5. macrumors 65816


    Live with 2 Channels

    Sorry for my own double post - the one above was a response that was typed before the thread opened.

    To the question of 2 inputs and live recording, a couple answers. You could buy a small mixing board and run multiple mics into it with the stereo outs going into the MBox. You would do all the mixing on the board.

    Another option is to place two mics in a stereo technique and take them direct to the MBox. You'll have problems with Phase Cancellation if you don't know how to measure out the distance between the mics, or just do well listening to your results and massaging the mic placement to fit.

  6. macrumors regular

    good point - not that I'm cheap, but the <$500 for the software and hardware bridge really appealed to me what with me having no experience with this sort of thing. Basically, I'm looking to "get started" and see if where it goes justifies an upgrade in the future. So for a solid "estimate," I'd say $500 - $750 as this is going to be a VERY part time hobby for at least a year. . .
  7. macrumors regular

    Re: Live with 2 Channels

    double post again! maybe I should change the name of the thread to reflect ;) Thanks though for the tip regarding the mixing board, and thanks for all the insight regarding DigiDesign - sounds like they've got quite a racket. Perhaps the post I just submitted sheds some more light on my situation. My impression was that a mixing board would be somewhat costly, and I am aiming for full portability as I will be coming to them, and not them to me, but I certainly am not averse to this option, again consideriding my "budget" and experience level. Placing two mikes and dealing with phase cancellation should be manageable with LE, right?
  8. macrumors 6502a


    I'd say better do some more research before you spend your money. There are several options out there.

    For example, I am considering the emagic Gold Production Kit ( http://www.emagic.de/products/collections/emi62m.php?lang=EN ). It has the EMI 6|2m USB interface, Logic Gold and a couple audio units (e-piano, b3 organ, sampler). It's a good deal, actually, since the USB interface and Logic Gold alone cost a lot more than the package (can get the package for €600 here). The USB interface has 6 inputs and 2 outputs as well as MIDI.
    You can get a cheaper Logic Audio collection, but without the USB interface.

    There's also a package from Steinberg that retails for €279,- here, featuring Cubase SE and a couple VST instruments, but you'd need to get a USB interface yourself. E.g the Terratec Phase 26 (€300,-; 5+1 surround outputs, stereo in, stereo phono in, mono mic in, midi) or the M-Audio Quattro USB (€300,-; 4ins/4outs, MIDI).

    Note that I didn't try any of these. I'm just mentioning them since I'm in the same boat (researching for audio hw/sw to buy).
  9. macrumors 65816


    I am gonna have to back up the idea of using Logic. You can get a large or small interface (let's say you got something to run 8 channels) and then pick up Logic Platinum. My buddy got LP for about $300 using a student discount. I don't know if that applies to you. If not, perhaps the Gold package, as stated by crenz. I use the emi 2|6 (cousin to the 6|2 that comes in the package above) and love it. Ultra portable.

    Stereo micing and phase are considerations of the quality of mics you have and where they are placed in a room, keeping in mind the placement of instruments relative to each other and the mics. Also, the acoustics of the room will come into play, here.

    I recommend the book, "Basic Guide to Home Recording For Dummies." I was surprised how much it taught me when I was starting out. Also, check the periodicals. The UK based ComputerMusic is geared towards electronic music, but every issue has a tutorial about identifying the gear you need to get started. It's worth reading in the book store.

    Take notes on all your research. Better to have too many notes and have to sort through them than too take sparse notes and find that you are unable to track them back to their sources. Pretend you are creating a bibliography. It helps a lot when you are getting started by allowing you to cross reference reviews, prices, etc.

    Other thoughts?

  10. macrumors regular

    thanks crenz; I've looked briefly at Logic but I'm looking more for recording / editing and MIDI and additional voices is not as important to me. But, it looks like Emagic Audio and the Audio Interface combined might do the trick. What do y'all think?
  11. macrumors newbie

    Pro Tools LE is great, but Digi......

    I recently had an MBox and was rather disapponited with its performance. As with any DAW software, there are latency issues to contend with, and right now the MBox has a rather high latency and no auto-correction software to correct for it. Every time you record a track, you will be 128 samples (I believe) delayed from the tracks you just recorded, meaning it will sound muddy, out of time, etc. You have to physically go in with the mouse and drag your track back 128 samples to compensate, and this is for every track you record.

    I had a Digi 001 unit which worked great, but still had the same latency issues (though to a lesser degree). This would be a very simple problem to solve through software that auto corrected for the latency, but Digi has been a little behind the times lately, and Pro Tools LE 6.1 is no great major improvement.

    I would say if you are using OS 9, get a hold of Pro Tools Free from the Digidesign website, buy a cheap breakout box, and start messing around for 3-6 months with it until you feel you have the hang of it. Hopefully by then Digidesign will have a Firewire Mbox version with less latency and auto-correction software of some sort.

    If you don't stick with Pro Tools, I think Logic is the next best thing.
  12. macrumors member

    emi 6|2 is the way to go

    i use the 2|6 with logic audio and it's a great combination - the 2|6 has good drivers, nice quality sound, and it's light and portable. the 6|2 seems even better for you since it has more inputs, plus midi, which can be fairly helpful.

    that said, if you're just looking for something to start off with doing recording work, i'm not sure logic is the best way to go. it's very powerful, very open to configuration, but also very hard to learn -- it took me a while slogging through the hefty manual to even begin to work out how to use it, and even now i'd say i'm unfamiliar with most of the features on there. but don't forget you can use the emi 6|2 with other programs, such as cubase, sonar, etc, with roughly the same degrees of success. and didn't apple come out with some kind of intro music program? soundtrack perhaps?

    i'd recommend checking an apple store if you get the chance - they usually have logic installed somewhere in the store and you can play around to get a sense of how you like the program.

    hope that helps!
  13. macrumors regular

    Dan - thanks for the "Dummies" reference; I'll be sure to check it out. Also, thanks to the advice I'm going to look more seriously at Logic - didn't Apple buy it recently? Anyways, just a clarification; when you say "8 channels" is that like saying "8 tracks" on a conventional sound board or are you referring to the 6 in / 2 out? And is it specifically a "student" discount or an "education" discount? Not that I can't check it out for myself. . . :)

    Yellowtooth - thanks for the additional insight into the Mbox; sounds like a pain in the a** to go in and reconfigure every single track. And I don't use OS 9 but I looked at the PT Free; it doesn't work in Classic emulation and I'm not sure my iBook double boots so I wouldn't be able to use it. But I'll double check into that. One question though - by "breakout box" do you mean something like the Mbox or EMI 6 / 2 to connect to the computer to run the audio in?

    f-matic - thanks for the additional info on the 6 / 2, and the suggestion to see about Logic at the Apple Store. Maybe I'll hit Lenox Mall this weekend and see what I can see. The expanded compatability between Logic and the other programs might prove more useful than I anticipate.

    Thanks to all y'all for your insight and advice: continued input is appreciated, especially cost effectiveness opinions. . .
  14. macrumors newbie

    Have you thought about Mark of the Unicorn 828 Mk2, it's $749, but it firewire and 22 inputs as well as free software called Audiodesk, which if you don't need midi is great...

    www.motu.com for details. I use the 828 mk1 and it's been great, used it with desktops, laptops, just plug and play. Also the cuemix feature allows you to monitor with zero latency up to 4 different mixes on the new mk2. It's not that much more than MBOX, but has unlimited audio tracks. And you can always step up to Digital Performer if you want to get more serious... for another $299. check out www.samash.com or www.sweetwater.com for places to buy it.

    I also use an m-audio mobilepre, which is only $149, and it does similar to the mbox, but the specs are not as good, no focusrite preamps, but for hobby recording it's great, it's cheap and it's bus powered like the mbox. Latency is going to be a problem with all usb devices...

    Just my thoughts,
    David Chai :D
  15. macrumors 65816


    Yes, Apple owns Emagic. We're all holding our breath to see what neat tricks they pull out on that one.

  16. macrumors regular

    Thanks for confirming my hunch regarding Apple and Emagic Dan. And thanks for the tip on MOTU davdchai; it seems at first glance though that it's more than I need right now. It seems that whatever route I go will probably be more than I need right now though, and it will require a good deal of dedication with probably a pretty steep learning curve to figure out how to make it all work. I can tell y'all that I'm leaning much further away from the Mbox at this point and more towards the Emagic Gold Production Kit as it sounds very much like what I'm looking for right smack in the middle of my price range. My local Apple Store is justs starting to have Logic trickle in and expect a Logic workstation around the time they start getting their G5s in. I'm going to spend some time down there checking it out once they have it all set up. I appreciate everyone's input so far and welcome additional comments. Thanks!
  17. macrumors 65816


    It's worth noting that PT really does have some great features. I'm a Logic man all the way, but for the sake of an accurate portrayal...

    It's a shame that you can't run it without Digi hardware, or I'd probably pick up a copy just for some of the editing options.

    Also, check www.macmusic.org , www.osxaudio.com , and www.musiconmac.com

    I think that you will find audio people are often just as about their tools as geeks are about their OS. It's so much fun being part of a horde!

  18. macrumors regular


    I second this opinion. MOTU products are the way to go. Avoid Protools if you can. A lot of people use it becasue they don't know any better and they think it is the "professionals choice." A lot of engineers use it (especially in TV/Film) because of compatability, but they most will admit that they don't use it at home - just like windows. Digidesign conquered the market awhile ago and hasn't looked back.

    Don't get me wrong, ProTools Pro line is great, but their entry level stuff is pretty crappy for what you pay for it. Digital Performer is a much better program, seriously. And if allows you to use MOTU gear which is high quality, less expensive, and way better for upgrading if you want to later.
  19. macrumors 6502a


    i thought all the ibooks were os9 bootable?? :confused:
  20. macrumors 6502a



    Ofcourse, you can use the nice MOTU gear with Logic. Although I haven't tried it yet, I 've heard the new Digital Performer is still very buggy. Is this true? And by the way phrancpharmD, your iBook is dual bootable. Check out PT free on it. If you really like the software interface, like I do, then it could be your thing.
  21. macrumors 68020


    I use both Protools LE and Digital Performer and I use Pro Tolls for capturing and DP for the rest.

    For some reason I feel better capturing audio with PT, the thing is that PH has all the tools already there while in DP you have to open windows all the time.

    But yes, DP is more frendly and it comes with more and better plug ins and there is not such thing as a LE version.

    I'm more a DP user because I work with midi and audio, something that I can not do well near as close with PT in my 7 years in to pro audio.
  22. macrumors regular

    Yep, my iBook double boots; I'll probably check out ProTools Free just for the heck of it, but I don't have any input devices (save my built in mic) right now. But it should probably be good enough to get an idea. And thanks for all the "seconds" on MOTU, I'll look a little more at them and see what they offer and for how much and try to figure out whether it's worth it right now. Mymemory, that was an interesting comment regarding opening multiple windows; that's something I should probably keep in mind since all I have is my 12.1 inch iBook screen - no external monitor here at home!
  23. macrumors 601


    the software:

    Pro Tools LE
    - easy to use
    - great audio editing environment
    - free w/ purchase of h/w
    - runs only on digi h/w
    - MIDI stuff relatively weak
    - uses RTAS plug-ins only

    - powerful and flexible
    - owned by apple
    - can use AAU plug-ins
    - good integration w/ s/w synths
    - works w/ other vendors' h/w
    - lots o' good plugins included (esp. w/ platinum)
    - steep learning curve
    - costly
    - needs h/w dongle
    - VST plugins available only through wrapper

    - powerful
    - lots o' good plugins included
    - works w/ other vendors' h/w
    - straightforward to use
    - VST plugins available only through wrapper
    - included plugins are MAS
    - non-standard interface
    - costly

    (there are a thousand things i've not mentioned, just wanted to stick to some highlights)

    my setup:
    - i own all 3
    - use a digi001
    - do almost all my work in PTLE
    - am learning logic
    - started using MOTU in '86, don't use it anymore

    regarding the latency issue -- i haven't noticed it w/ my digi001, as long as i've got Low Latency Monitoring turned on in PTLE. but i usually monitor what i'm recording through my mixing board, anyway
  24. macrumors 601


    the hardware:

    i'd advise to choose your s/w first. the only gotcha, as has been mentioned, is that protools runs only on digi h/w.

    i've not used the mbox, but have considered buying one for the portability. i'll probably pick up the digi002 rack (still undecided), 'cuz i just found out that digidesign will buy back my digi001 (the pci card is not compatible w/ the g5).

    so if i do that, then i've solved my portability issue.

    lots of people are happy w/ their MOTU gear, lots are happy w/ their Emagic gear. though probably more than you want to spend, you should check out the Metric Halo gear.

    to get started, though, the MBox/PTLE combo is relatively inexpensive ($450). by the time you get the Logic Big Box and the EMI 2/6, you're getting closer to $600 (still a nice deal). just know that the latter is harder to use.
  25. macrumors 601



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